So every living thing has a certain amount of radiocarbon within them.

After an organism dies, the radiocarbon decreases through a regular pattern of decay. The time taken for half of the atoms of a radioactive isotope to decay in Carbon-14’s case is about 5730 years.

One good example would be the elevated levels of Carbon-14 in our atmosphere since WWII as a result of atomic bombs testing.

information on radiocarbon dating-28

Radiocarbon is produced in the upper atmosphere after Nitrogen-14 isotopes have been impacted by cosmic radiation.

Radiocarbon is then taken in by plants through photosynthesis, and these plants in turn are consumed by all the organisms on the planet.

Historical documents and calendars can be used to find such absolute dates; however, when working in a site without such documents, it is hard for absolute dates to be determined.

As long as there is organic material present, radiocarbon dating is a universal dating technique that can be applied anywhere in the world.

Although relative dating can work well in certain areas, several problems arise.

Rodents, for example, can create havoc in a site by moving items from one context to another.

Half-lives vary according to the isotope, for example, Uranium-238 has a half-life of 4500 million years where as Nitrogen-17 has a half-life of 4.173 seconds!

Looking at the graph, 100% of radiocarbon in a sample will be reduced to 50% after 5730 years.

For example, Christian time counts the birth of Christ as the beginning, AD 1 (Anno Domini); everything that occurred before Christ is counted backwards from AD as BC (Before Christ).